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Old November 19th, 2012, 02:48 AM   #1

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What were the different cultures of France before the revolution?


I've been reading about people very isolated, speaking different languages, having different laws and having different cultures in the various regions of France prior to the revolution. I hope some of the members more familiar with this will share a little about them. What were these languages? What were their customs? How did the different cultures disappear? Or, did they blend into one general culture which we see today?
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Old November 19th, 2012, 01:53 PM   #2

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Before the French Revolution, there were nearly 30 different « dialects », as shown on the map hereafter.

Click the image to open in full size.

Within these, there was in fact mainly Romance languages (derived from the Vulgar Latin), some Germanic dialects (in the East), and 2 very different languages: Breton and Basque.

At the beginning of the revolution (1790), the government decided to translate all the texts of the National Assembly in each of these languages. But because of the cost and the lack of will to support the regional languages, the dialects were soon methodically attacked.
In 1794, the Abbé Grégoire revealed that the official French language was exclusively spoken in 15 departments only (out of 83).
Then the French revolution decided that the “official” French language should be the only spoken one, and used force to reach its goal.
In fact, these repressive measures were inefficient, and the different dialects have been spoken till the middle of the 20th century (even if less and less). The most efficient measure to impose the French language has been in the end the television!

So to go back to your question, these languages (dialects) vanished recently for most of them. In the 1950’s they were still spoken by many old people in the country, and the regional customs were still much alive: special words, special cooking, special clothing,…

As an example, beginning of the 20th century, 50% of Bretons didn’t know how to speak French. Today, only 35 000 Bretons speak their language everyday.

As you said, these languages and customs blended in the French culture we see today.
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Old November 19th, 2012, 04:20 PM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diviacus View Post
Before the French Revolution, there were nearly 30 different « dialects », as shown on the map hereafter.

Click the image to open in full size.

Within these, there was in fact mainly Romance languages (derived from the Vulgar Latin), some Germanic dialects (in the East), and 2 very different languages: Breton and Basque.

At the beginning of the revolution (1790), the government decided to translate all the texts of the National Assembly in each of these languages. But because of the cost and the lack of will to support the regional languages, the dialects were soon methodically attacked.
In 1794, the Abbé Grégoire revealed that the official French language was exclusively spoken in 15 departments only (out of 83).
Then the French revolution decided that the “official” French language should be the only spoken one, and used force to reach its goal.
In fact, these repressive measures were inefficient, and the different dialects have been spoken till the middle of the 20th century (even if less and less). The most efficient measure to impose the French language has been in the end the television!

So to go back to your question, these languages (dialects) vanished recently for most of them. In the 1950’s they were still spoken by many old people in the country, and the regional customs were still much alive: special words, special cooking, special clothing,…

As an example, beginning of the 20th century, 50% of Bretons didn’t know how to speak French. Today, only 35 000 Bretons speak their language everyday.

As you said, these languages and customs blended in the French culture we see today.
Wow, that is just fascinating. I suppose uniting the country with one language would be beneficial in terms of patriotism, but it is a cultural shame that these dialects were lost. So, in a nutshell, French is an assimilation of 30 different cultures.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 12:11 AM   #4
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La vendee


The La Vendee region south of Nantes and Rennes had a long history of local pride bordering on separatist nationalism.
After 1789 and the Revolution the Vendeeans traditionalist, Royalist and Roman Catholic who called themselves Les Chouens'' revolted against the Paris govt and fought a guerilla war against the Paris govt.
I have a small statue of an 18th century Chouen resistance fighter in my home which I was given by the family in Fontenoy Le Comte in La Vendee during the summer of 1982 when I spent- with my wife and family- two weeks in La Vendee.
These people were as fiercely proud even in 1982 of their separate identity from Metropolitian France as I-a Scot- am fiercely indepedent about my separte Scottish identity within the United Kingdom from England.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 07:00 AM   #5

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Aren't Gascons and Basques the same people?
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Old November 20th, 2012, 10:00 AM   #6
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Aren't Gascons and Basques the same people?
Well, Gascon is counted part of the Occitan group. It certainly is not Basque, but tt seems there might be a Basque linguistic substrate to it, and it's pretty peculiar compared to the other forms of Occitan. And obviously vasconem/Basque/Gascon belong together linguistically. It's what the Romans called people originally obviously.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 10:07 AM   #7

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At first, Gascons were basically latinized Vasconic people. Over time, they developed their own identity as a Romance speaking people.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 11:15 AM   #8

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As already said, Gascons and Basques speak a completely different language: Occitan (Romance) for Gascons and a PIE language for Basques.
However both names are derived from the same "Roman" name : the Vascons.

(The number of people regularly speaking a regional language is today estimated at 3.5 millions, so roughly 6% of the total French population.
In 1930 it was estimated at 25%.)
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Old November 20th, 2012, 02:35 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diviacus View Post
As already said, Gascons and Basques speak a completely different language: Occitan (Romance) for Gascons and a PIE language for Basques.
Isn't Basque language isolated? I thought it is not part of IE languages.

In any case thanks for answers. For some reasons I thought Basque and Gascons are same people just under different names.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 08:41 PM   #10

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Quote:
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Isn't Basque language isolated? I thought it is not part of IE languages.
Yes You are right. PIE is Pre Indo European (and not Proto Indo European)
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